Dinos and tigers and pterodactyls - oh my!“Wow! Those dinosaur bones are huge!”
“Teacher, is that one up near the ceiling a pterodactyl?”
As children come face to face with a 9-by 3-meter Acrocantosaurus skeleton, or the skull of a forbidding Tyrannosaurus rex ― dinosaurs only seen before in movies and books ― their eyes bug out.
Younger visitors were recently offered an exclusive peek at the collection of the Seodaemun Natural History Museum, which will open July 10. Apart from dinosaur bones, all fossils and stuffed specimens are the real deal.
While both Kyung Hee University and Ewha Womans University boast natural history museums with an intriguing selection of animals and plants, the Seodaemun Natural History Museum focuses more on its audience than its academic expertise, making it Korea’s first general-interest natural history museum with more than 3,000 exhibits.
Most visitors will start their tour oohing and aahing at dinosaur fossils on the ground floor, before shooting up to the third floor for a 3-D movie reenacting the formation of the universe and Earth. After the show comes a swing through a model limestone cave complete with stalactites, and an introduction to Korean mining and minerals through touch screens and lighted maps.
At “Live Evolution Hall” are model dinosaurs, as well as various specimens of mammals, birds, insects and fish. A stuffed Golden Eagle stares at you from one corner. In another area, pictures of tigers and other animals no longer found in Korea are displayed.
A large aquarium on the first floor, representing the Han River, shows visitors which fish species live in the upper, middle and lower portions of the river. Rare frog and insect species also draw the eye.
Appropriately enough, the museum’s mascot is “Baby Dinosaur Dooly.” The lovable comic figure acts as a guide in several locations, and will present a large dinosaur egg to the museum during its July 10 opener. This egg will be “hatched” on the museum’s first birthday (though what will be born remains a secret).
“We are planning to use the ‘Tamagochi’ concept so popular a few years back, and allow visiting children to get the idea they are raising Dooly’s younger sibling, which will help them value life more,” says Yoon Ju, director of the animation company Doolynara Inc.
The museum goes beyond exhibitions. Visitors can feed birds and observe marine life, or enroll in courses. The museum is the fruit of seven years of construction and 23.8 billion won ($20 million) from the national government, Seoul city government and the Seodaemun district of western Seoul.
The museum grounds have picnic areas, and fast food shops are also on the way. A slide shaped like a dinosaur’s belly and a playground stocked with “hidden” fossils await families and their brood.
Tickets are 3,000 won ($2.50) for adults and 1,000 won for children. Visitors are urged to take a bus from Sinchon, Ewha Womans University or Hongjae subway stations. For more information, call (02) 3142-3030.
by Jung Hyung-mo